Finney was one of the biggest defenders and supporters of Bitcoin from its earliest days. He rose to the defense of the still incubating technology against fellow cryptologists who were convinced it would never work. Finney held the distinction of getting the first bitcoin ever transferred to anybody as a test from Satoshi Nakamoto (whoever that is).
He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in August 2009 and fought for years to continue to do what he loved: write code. From one of his last posts on the Bitcointalk forums titled “Bitcoin and Me,” he wrote,
“ALS is a disease that kills moter neurons [sic], which carry signals from the brain to the muscles. It causes first weakness, then gradually increasing paralysis.”
“Today, I am essentially paralyzed… I operate the computer using a commercial eyetracker system. It also has a speech synthesizer, so this is my voice now.”
“It has been an adjustment, but my life is not too bad. I can still read, listen to music, and watch TV and movies. I recently discovered that I can even write code. It’s very slow, probably 50 times slower than I was before. But I still love programming and it gives me goals.”
“That’s my story. I’m pretty lucky overall. Even with the ALS, my life is very satisfying.”
ALS is a progressive, fatal neuromuscular disease that slowly robs the body of its ability to walk, speak, swallow and breathe. The life expectancy of a person with ALS averages from 2 to 5 years from the time of diagnosis. ALS can strike anyone, and presently there is no known cause or cure.
The Bitcoin Magazine team is participating in the Nashville Chapter of the ALS Association’s virtual walk and fundraiser. From now until October 3, we’ll be remembering Hal’s legacy in different ways across all of our channels. Please consider donating toward our fundraising efforts by visiting https://bitcoinmagazine.com/our-hero-hal-fundraiser. All of the donations are handled by the ALS Association through its website and we are not directly accepting donations.
The ALS Association organizes walks all over the United States and there’s most likely one near you. If you’re interested in starting your own fundraiser, please let us know via Twitter and we’ll be sure to help promote your efforts. We’ve also set up a reward on Carrot, a new app we’re using to support our mission, so you can earn sats if your fundraiser reaches $100 in donations.
As our latest piece of content about Finney, we’ve published an article by Aaron van Wirdum detailing his work on Reusable Proof of Work, “How Hal Finney’s Quest for Digital Cash Led to RPOW (and More).” His article is the fifth installment of Bitcoin Magazine’s The Genesis Files series, which has covered the advancements that led to Bitcoin’s creation. The previous articles in this series covered David Chaum’s eCash, Adam Back’s Hashcash, Wei Dai’s b-money and Nick Szabo’s Bit Gold.
Finney’s dedication to his craft will always be an inspiration to people that value freedom, privacy and sovereignty.
Disclosure: BTC Inc is the parent company of both Bitcoin Magazine and Carrot.